FolkWorld Live Review 2/99:

Ayub Ogada and The Drummers of Burundi

At the Corn Exchange, Cambridge; 8/2/1999

By Kathy Tan

Neither of the two acts at the Corn Exchange tonight are newcomers to the scene. Both have releases on the RealWorld record label, started and managed by Peter Gabriel. Being the almost unmentioned support act to the Drummers wasn't exactly the fairest situation to be in, but the crowd that filled the Corn Exchange at 7:30pm proved Ogada's popularity amongst lovers of World/ African music.

With only a traditional hand-made lyre and shakers which kept his right foot busy throughout the performance, Ogada's performance was the simplest and most unostentatious you could possibly imagine. But the vocals that emanated from deep within the being of this man carried you along a lyrical and rhythmic journey, which was intoxicating even though you didn't understand Swahili. Obviously accustomed to playing to live audiences, Ogada introduced each song, and even got the audience to sing along in bits, albeit a tad feebly, I guess.

The Drummers made a spectacular entrance, with the Burundi drums on their heads (and these things were HUGE!) and pounding out a rhythm which reverberated round the walls. With twelve of them, this was not a sight for the faint-hearted. Swathed in costumes in the colours red, white and green, the Drummers held the audience captivated with a solid hour of vigorous drumming, leaping, prancing around, shouting out in unison and ritualistic dance, all in true Burundi style. The slight incongruity that this was a hall of predominantly white Europeans, and that the Drummers looked slightly out of place on a stark black stage which, perhaps, restricted their movements a bit, didn't seem to bother them, nor the audience. After an hours' solid drumming, they started the procession out of the hall the same way they came in, but this time with a bead or two of sweat glistening their faces and (bulgingly muscular) arms. I'm not surprised; even thinking about the amount of energy and stamina it took to carry off a stunning performance like that puts me to shame!

A truly enjoyable night, and one which proved the popularity of contemporary World/ African music in this part of the earth today.

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